Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Nando's PERI-PERI This Week, Underbelly Hospitality's Big Plans

Nando's brings its famous chicken to Houston.
Nando's brings its famous chicken to Houston. Photo by Greg Powers

Nando's PERI-PERI, 1717-C Post Oak Boulevard, will make its Texas debut here in Houston August 7. It's the first of two upcoming Houston area restaurants with another planned for 23601 Cinco Ranch Boulevard in Katy.

Nando's is a much loved and much devoured global fast-casual eatery known for its flame-grilled spicy Peri-Peri chicken. It was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987 and its heritage shows up not only in the food but its commitment to South African farmers and artists as well. Its designs revolve around the South African tradition of braii, a gathering around the grill. For Nando's that also means collaborations between South African artists and local creatives in the communities in which each restaurant emerges.
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The PERI PERI chicken gets the salad treatment at Nando's.
Photo by Greg Powers
For the Uptown location, Texas-based  Michael Hsu Office of Architecture created a vibrant  space with rich textures, colorful patterns and warm materials. The open-flame grill anchors the light-filled dining room that offers seating for 79 guests along with a bar counter featuring seven taps with four beers, two wines and a cold brew. A dramatic stone mosaic, a collaboration between South African artist Marlise Keith and the Spiers Art Academy, adds to the wow factor along with smaller scale pieces adorning the walls.

The menu is anchored by its 24-hour marinated chicken and diners can enjoy the PERI-PERI chicken in dishes such as the PERI Chicken Bowl or the Nandocas Choice, a juicy butterflied chicken breast served atop garlic bread and accompanied by its house-made coleslaw. Guests can also order the PERI-PERI chicken as legs, thighs and half-chicken. Sides include its PERI Mac and Cheese, Portuguese Rice and PERI Chips (fries to we Yanks).

In addition to its tap alcoholic beverages, there are bottled beers, wine and frozen cocktails. The Frozen Rosalita was introduced for the Houston market and is a refreshing tequila and mezcal margarita.
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Houston Farmers Market will see a few changes.
Photo by Michael Craft
Underbelly Hospitality announced relocation plans for two of its Houston Farmers Market concepts with a new taqueria taking over the space.

Comalito, 2520 Airline, will open in Fall 2023 in the former space of Wild Oats which, in turn, is relocating to Spring Branch. Comalito at Houston Farmers Market is a partnership between Underbelly Hospitality and Nixt, a restaurant group based in Mexico City. Nixt is led by Chef Luis Robledo Richards, the star of the new Netflix series Sugar Rush: The Baking Point.

Robledo Richards is a classically-trained French pastry chef who studied at the French Culinary Institute and his resume includes Michelin-starred dining establishments like Daniel Boulud's restaurant Daniel, Le Pre Catelan and La Table du Baltimore plus chocolatier training with Fredric Bau and L'Ecole du Grand Chocolat. He also opened Tout Chocolat in Mexico City and was named Latin America's Best Pastry Chef by  'The World's 50 Best Restaurants'.
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Chef Luis Robledo Richards is bringing his skills to Houston.
Photo by Fernando Gomez Carbajal
Robledo and his team will relocate to Houston for the new venture which will highlight the best of Mexico City's taquerias with an array of tacos de parilla and tacos al pastor, including vegetarian options such as mushroom tacos al pastor and quesadillas de flor de calabaza (zucchini flower). There will be fresh salsas and much of the produce, including peppers, will be sourced from the Houston Farmers Market itself. Some of the proteins will be from R-C Ranch, the Texas-based wagyu rancher and butcher shop located at the market.

The tortillas will be made in-house from imported organic heirloom corn from Central Mexico. Using traditional nixtamilization, the corn will be ground into a fine masa before becoming the tortillas that will be the backbone of much of the menu. Houstonians can expect the space to offer large-scale tortilla manufacturing in the future.

There will be a bar program with tequila, mezcal and cocktails to go along with the food menu. When it opens, there will be lunch and dinner service with breakfast and brunch to follow later, including a menu of traditional Mexican pastries.
Wild Oats will be replaced by an upscale taqueria.
Photo buy Claudia Casbarian
Wild Oats, 2520 Airline, will close September 3 after finishing its run for Houston Restaurant Weeks. Plans are for it to reopen at 1222 Witte in October 2023.

As for the reason behind the relocation Nina Quincy, President of Underbelly Hospitality said, "Wild Oats is a beloved concept that celebrates the traditions of Texas cuisine, but in hindsight, we realized that it wasn't the right fit for the Houston Farmers Market. We are very excited about the new location and are confident that it will be well-received once it opens in Spring Branch later this year."

The HRW menu at Wild Oats offers multi-course menus for lunch and dinner. The $25 HRW lunch offers a first course of chili, pepper jelly or armadillo egg followed by second course options such as chicken fried steak sandwich, charred romaine salad with smoked chicken, catfish po'boy, one-half chicken fried steak and a roasted beet and arugula salad with smoked chicken. As a bonus, Wild Oats is offering a third course with desserts such as chocolate chip cookie, tres leches cake, churros and its Dr. Pepper Cake. Lunch is Wednesday through Saturday from noon till 4 p.m.

Dinner is three courses as well with some different entree choices such as bavette beef fajitas and shrimp and grits for $39.
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Guillermo Medellin has a prix-fixe tasting restaurant for pizza aficionados.
Photo by David Rocabado/Russo's
Olio e Farina, 24230 Kuykendahl, opened July 22. It's a new concept from the folks at Russo's New York Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen. Launched by Founder and CEO Anthony Russo, along with Olio & Farina owner Guillermo Medellin, the new pizza tasting restaurant offers a fixed price menu of $24.95 per person or $14.95 for children ages 3 to 12. Children under three are free. The fixed price does not include beverages, alcohol, sales tax or gratuity.

It's a novel concept offering guests the opportunity to sample a variety of from-scratch Romo-style craft pizzas. To start there are items like Chef Made Tomato Basil Soup, Truffle Mushroom Arancini, Lemon Arugula Salad and Beef Meatball. The hand-crafted pizzas are served family-style with choices such as Hummus Mediterranean, Pesto Chicken, Pepperoni With Vodka Sauce, Pulled Pork and Italian Meat Lovers. There are gourmet dessert pizzas as well including Mascarpone & Berries, Apple Pie and S'mores.

In addition to the prix-fixe menu, diners can opt for Pasta Add-On Platters for $10 per person with a choice of Spaghetti Carbonara, Truffle Mushroom Campanelle and Penne alla Vodka.

There are signature cocktails such as the Italian Margarita, Espresso Chocolate Martini and the Tuscan Sunset. Local and import beers are available along with a wine list of varietals by the glass or bottle. Guests may BYOB with a corkage fee of $20 per 750 ml bottle.
Indianola is turning into a Tex-Mex concept.
Photo by Julia Gabriel
Indianola and Miss Carousel, 1201 St. Emanuel, closed July 31.The team from Agricole Hospitality, Vincent Huynh, Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber made the announcement the day of the closure of the two East Downtown concepts. However, Agricole has big plans for the spaces and renovations have already begun to transform Indianola into a Tex-Mex restaurant and cantina while the former home of Miss Carousel will be a laid-back bar utilizing the ample space for sports and event-watching and bar games. It will also feature live music and DJs. Opening dates and further details will be announced later this year.
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Ryan Pera, Vincent Huynh and Morgan Weber have plans for their EaDo concepts.
Photo by Ralph Smith
The owners, who also operate Coltivare, Eight Row Flint (two locations), EZ's Liquor Lounge and Vinny's Pizza, say they have learned a lot about running businesses in East Downtown and that they took a close look at the two concepts to determine what wasn't working.

In a press release the Agricole team said, "We are so proud of what our team created, but we have come to the difficult realization as business owners that we missed the mark on the concepts guests in EaDo want and need. We're committed to this neighborhood and are eager to create two new spaces - a fresh, more casual restaurant and an everyday bar and gathering space - that speak more directly to the specific desires of our guests."
This writer stopped at Catbirds for her bachelorette party in 1998.
Photo by Karen Callery Wagner

Catbirds, 1336 Westheimer, closed its doors July 31 but the closure may not be permanent. The Montrose bar's social media stated that it is closed temporarily and that "Catbirds ownership has sold the assets to a new company that intends to reopen the bar later this year, likely continuing it as Catbirds to maintain its legacy as a neighborhood bar."

The buyer of the assets is none other than well known hospitality professional Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge, Better Luck Tomorrow and Squable, according to Houston Food Finder. In 2019, a business group that Heugel is part of, Montrose Real Estate LLC, bought the Cherryhurst Center building in which Catbirds is located.
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Adrian's is expanding and bringing tacos and tortas to Cypress.
Photo by Miguel Jiminez
Adrian's Mexican Street Food, 20323 FM 529, had its grand opening celebration July 25 in Cypress. With five locations of its Tacos Y Tortas Adrian in the Katy area, the locally-owned company has been a staple of the community for nearly 20 years. The Cypress restaurant is its first foray outside of Katy.

The menu offers street-style corn tortilla tacos, usually in an order of five, with options such as carne asada, pork al pastor, grilled chicken, cochinita pork and quesabirria. There are also fajita tacos with flour tortillas, quesadillas and enchiladas verdes. The French bread tortas include beef, chicken, pork al pastor, birria and the Pambazo, a sandwich of French bread dipped in dry chile sauce with black bean spread, ham, cecina (dried) beef, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, avocado and sour cream.
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Is five too many tacos? We don't think so.
Photo by Sean Rainer
Breakfast tacos are served from 10 a.m. to noon as well as chilaquiles and huevos divorciados. There are desserts such as Tres Leches Cake, Flan Napolitano and Chocoflan Lava Cake.

There's a good selection of cocktails including Paloma, Mojito, Adrian's Pina Colada and a variety of margaritas. Happy hour specials are available Sunday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Founder and owner Miguel Jiminez said in a press release, "I love sharing my passion for the flavors of authentic Mexican street food and am excited to bring those traditions to the Cypress area." Jiminez founded the concept in 2004 at the young age of 18. There are plans to open two more soon.
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The Richmond location of Ono Poke has closed.
Photo by Troy Fields
Ono Poke, 607 Richmond, had its last service July 28 according to its Facebook post. The restaurant had announced its Montrose shuttering July 26 as part of its pivot to its upcoming concept Aburi Sushi at 3800 Southwest Freeway. Ono Poke at One Allen downtown is still open.

Aburi Sushi is close to a soft opening and, according to the new restaurant's website, it is hiring.

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Salata makes salad a tempting meal.
Photo by Salata

Salata Salad Kitchen, 13410 Briar Forest, opens August 10. The 2,664 square-foot location will celebrate its grand opening by offering a free build-your-own succulent bar for paying guests, while supplies last.  Guests who download the Salata Tastemaker's app will receive a free small veggie salad on opening day. The first guest in line will get a special Salata gift basket and the first 100 people in line will receive a free Salata t-shirt designed by Texas artist Alli K.

Salata will also donate a portion of the Eldridge location's opening day sales to the Montrose Center and the Houston SPCA.

It is the 93rd location nationwide and the first Salata location for Meta AG, LLC, a franchise group owned by Aren Assatouri and Greta Simonian Assatouri.

Yuk Dae Chang
, 6650 Corporate Drive, Suite C, softly opened in early July and had its grand opening July 14. The Korean restaurant specializes in yukgaejang, a spicy beef soup with cellophane noodles. It also offers a variety of other Korean dishes like bossam and hot pot.

This is the first U.S. location outside of Los Angeles for the Korea-based chain.

Restaurants Reported Open July 2023:

Ale & Ivy, 305 Sawdust, opened July 14
The Audrey, 9595 Six Pines, opened July 12
Barnaby's Cafe, 8155 Long Point, opened July 1
Blazin Kajun, 2427 Cypress Creek Parkway, opened July 28
Captain D's, 5902 N. Fry, opened July 12
Coco Crepes & Coffee, 3303 Richmond, opened July 24
Common Bond On-The-Go, 9755 Katy freeway, opened July 12
Good Charlie's Oyster Bar, 545 Woodland Square Boulevard, opened mid-June
Graze Craze, 23227 Gosling, opened June 26
Josephine's Gulf Coast Traditions, 318 Gray, opened July 5
KPOT Korean BBQ & Hot Pot, 17575 Tomball Parkway, opened June 28
Lick Honest Ice Creams, 3821 Bellaire Boulevard, opened mid July
Local Table, 4223 Research Forest, opened July 24
Love Croissants, 2808 Caroline, opened July 19
Quad Houston, 4608 Almeda Road, opened mid-July
The Rado Market, 2310 Elgin, opened July 18
Reel Luxury Cinemas, 6595 Six Pines, opened July 12
Shake Shack, 19300 Katy Freeway, opened July 26
Sugar FRK, 314 Gray, opened early June
Terra Vino, 2520 Research Forest, opened late July
Twisted Grilled Cheese, 401 Franklin, opened July 8

Restaurants Reported Closed July 2023:

Black Page Brewing, 210 Glen Park, closed July 30
GJ Tavern, 737 Preston, closed early July
Kolache Shoppe, 4521 Kingwood, closed July 2
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.